To this day I can still remember my first day on campus at the University of Texas. I barely slept the night before in anticipation of the new adventure I was about to start…and excited to move out from under the parental units. Pops and I got up early to pick up the U-Haul trailer we rented to haul my stuff. It didn’t seem like much but included clothes, dorm refrigerator, word processor, 10-speed bike and a shiny new 19in TV. That took up about half of the small 6ft trailer; the rest was at least 10 medium size moving boxes filled with soap, deodorant, toilet paper, toothpaste, etc. My mother wanted me to be prepared so she spent the summer buying up supplies at every sale she could fine. I might not pass History 301 but I can assure you at no time did I “offend” during a lecture.
After a short 2 hour drive to Austin we arrived at Jester Center, which was my new home for the next 9 months. As they say, everything is bigger in Texas which included my dorm that had its own zip code. At the time Jester was the largest dorm in the country with two towers, a 2 story cafeteria, post office; lecture halls, bowling alley and slept 3600 students. As we pulled up to the building, I was already overwhelmed by the size of the place and for the first time doubt entered my mind. This went away quickly when the car door opened and the move-in volunteer greeted me with a Hook ‘em Horns and Welcome to The University of Texas!
Next was the chaos of unloading the trailer, shaking hands, checking-in, directions and then being whisked away to the 10th floor of the East building. Jester was big, but the rooms which were rumored to be designed by an architect known for prisons were not. Right away I realized the supplies would not fit, but Mom refused to be defeated and went to work finding places all over the room to hide this junk. To put this in perspective, on the day I moved out 9 months later, I found 2 more unused bars of soap on a top bookshelf. Mind you my roommate and I never spent a dime on supplies that entire year and I am pretty sure my suite-mates helped themselves too.
After we finished unloading Dad wanted to grab dinner before driving back. I was expecting something nice, but we pulled into the Pizza Hut across the street. 45 minutes later, I was back on campus with a pizza box in hand watching my parents and an empty trailer ride off into the distance. There was not one of those long emotional good-byes you see in the movies, in fact my Dad never got out and I think my Mom was already asleep. HA!
I looked around and realized I was in a strange city and knew no one. For the first time the magnitude of what was happening started to sink in. Before I could start crying I sensed a “disturbance in the force,” and sure enough an attractive co-ed was nearby. After exchanging pleasantries, she said she was looking for someone nice to help fix her bike. The chain had fallen off the rear derailleur during her move, which was a quick fix for a handyman like me. She too had just moved in and realized her bike was broken but couldn’t flag her Dad down as he sped away. I said my parents just dropped me off after taking me out for pizza, and she responded “…wait, you have pizza!”
Over the next hour we sat in the courtyard talking about how excited and a little scary it was to be on our own while eating my leftover pizza. I had been on my own for less than 2 hours and already made my first friend. All of a sudden the campus did not feel as big and Jester felt like home. In case you are wondering, we are still very good friends today. In fact, it was catching up with her last night on the phone that made me write this post. College was one of the best experiences I have had in life. My hope is that for all of you who went through your first day this past week, the experience is just as rewarding.